Homemade Vegetable stock, Vegetable Stock Powder & Homemade Bouillon Cubes

I am not sure about you, but for myself, I worry about my budget when I am cooking and -any- place I can cut corners I do.  I am constantly looking for what I like to call 'found foods'.  Items that make something from what would otherwise be nothing.  Stocks are one of those items.  They add flavor to your dishes and can be quite costly, or salty or may contain items that were not found in period if you choose to purchase them.  In order to shave the cost off my budget, and to ensure that I know what I am serving, I make a lot of my own stocks, powders and bouillon cubes which make use of items I have already purchased, but would otherwise throw away--it's a win-win. 

Outlined below will be the instructions for homemade vegetable stock powder which can travel with you and can be used to add additional flavor to any dish.  It does not require refridgeration so it is a perfect "camp food". You will also find instructions for making vegetable stock, meat stock and homemade bouillon.  Bouillon requires refridgeration but it is a flavor BOMB and is another item I consider a necessary food to take on camping trips.

Vegetable Stock Powder

1 unpeeled carrot
2 celery stalks
1 onion
1 leek
2-3 cloves of garlic
a handful of parsley
2-3 sprigs of thyme
1 -2 sprigs of rosemary

Opt: Other vegetables or herbs as desired

Wash your vegetables and herbs and then run through the food processor--you want them to be very finely chopped if you do not have a food processor.  Before cooking them you will want to weigh them.  Your salt content should be approximately 20% of the total weight of your vegetables.  If you have 16 ounces of vegetables, pre-cooked weight you will want to add about 3 ounces of salt. I prefer sea salt.

Mix thoroughly and place your vegetables into a pot over low heat. Cook about two hours.  Stir occasionally. You will notice at first the mix can get quite soupy as the vegetables release their water. Don't worry, the vegetables will reabsorb the water. When the water has been completely reabsorbed you can move onto the next step. 

 Spread the vegetables onto a parchment lined baking tray.  Bake at the lowest setting in your oven (mine is 170), until the vegetables have dried out and become crispy.  You will want to stir them every so often while they dry in the oven.  Allow them to cool and then process in your food processor until the vegetables become a powder.  You can store the powder for about three months in an airtight jar. 

To use: add 1 tsp of powder to 1 cup of water, or to taste.

Vegetable Stock 

Have tired vegetables in your drawers? Vegetable peels? Don't throw them out.  Save them in the freezer and when you have some time, use them to make vegetable stock. This is an easy and cost effective way to use up vegetables and vegetable parts (carrot peels, onion tops, celery leaves and the white woody ends, etc.) you would otherwise throw away. Your feast budget will thank you. If you are making a vegetable stock be sure to include mushrooms, tomatoes (if not cooking period) or nori--do not skip this. These vegetables create "umami", a savory or meaty flavor to your stock which is very much needed in vegetable stock.

For the most basic of stocks you will need carrots, celery and onions (leave the skins on; it turns the broth brown), but don't stop there, you can add flavor with tomato or mushrooms, leeks, beets (it creates a lovely red broth), asparagus, squash, fennel, eggplant etc. There are a few vegetables that you may not want to use, or use sparingly, cabbage being one.  The others include turnips, rutabega, artichoke, cauliflower and broccoli.  I personally enjoy the "bitter" notes that the cabbage and turnips add to a long-cooked broth, but I caution you to use your best judgement. Also--it should go without saying, if the vegetables go beyond tired to spoiled, rotten or moldy--don't use them.

The process is simple, and requires just a little bit of elbow grease and time.  

To begin, saute your sturdier vegetables in the barest bit of oil until tender.  Cover with water, add any seasoning you wish (salt, pepper, garlic, rosemary, thyme, savory, etc.), bring to a boil, cover with a lid and lower to simmer--walk away and forget it for at least an hour.  An hour is absolute minimum to make any stock--the longer the simmer, the more flavor you get.  Near the end of the cooking process you are going to want to taste for salt and flavor.  If it's lacking, you can add tomato paste (if  you are not cooking a period dish) or nutritional yeast (for a cheesy, umami flavor).  Turn off, let cool, strain, and store.  Vegetable stock will keep approximately five days in a fridge, or nearly forever frozen. 

Homemade Bouillon

Bouillon is a fancy name for broth. There was a time that I would reach for the cubes in order to flavor stocks, broths, gravies and other dishes.  Unfortunately, they are full of salt, MSG and other things, such as hydrogenated oils, that I just don't want to share with those I love when an alternative is available.

The first thing you should notice is that this is more of a method, than it is a recipe and it should start with -any- homemade stock; beef, chicken, pork, mixed or vegetable.  It takes the process of making stock one step further to create a flavor bomb. Follow the instructions below to get you started on this adventure.

To Make Stock

Making your own stocks are very cost effective for feasts, so save your bones and your scraps of veggies! Just toss them in a ziplock bag in the freezer until you have enough to make a good stock. Make your stock and can or freeze until needed.

There are two separate ways to make stock. The first is on the stove top/slow cooker and the second is in your oven. For any stock you will need bones (preferably some with meat), vegetables, aromatics, water and time--lots and lots of time.

I prefer to roast my bones before making any meat stock which adds an additional flavor component.  Simply place your bones in a baking dish and roast  in a 400 degree oven for approximately 45 minutes.  If the bones were frozen,  you will want to thaw them before you roast.  Marrow bones really benefit from this step, developing a deep, rich flavor while they roast. DO NOT skip this step. 

A good stock will -always- start with cold water. During the initial boiling of the stock--skim, skim, skim. You want to remove any and all impurities that come to the surface. After the initial boiling, lower your temperature to a simmer, cover with a lid slightly askew and  forget it.  I know you will be tempted (I know I am) but *never, ever!* stir the stock once you set it to simmering. This will make it cloudy and a sign of a good stock is that it should be clear and richly colored at the end of the process. 

A really good meat stock will convert to a gelatin when cold. This happens because the collagen in the bones dissolves which can only happen during a very long simmering process.  A good stock has a deep, well-developed flavor that is imparted through the aromatics and vegetables. The longer your stock cooks the better it is. 

My basic veggie blend for any stock includes a couple of carrots, celery and onions. For seasoning, I  also use parsley, rosemary, thyme, bay, garlic and black pepper. Wash your vegetables, roughly chop and make a bed of them for your roasted bones. There is no need to peel, unless the skin has been damaged in some way. 

Stovetop Method

A good rule of thumb to remember is that for every pound of bones you will need approximately 2 quarts of water. When making stock, be sure that the bones are covered by at least an inch. Add your aromatics, bring to a boil, skim off the scum and then lower the heat and simmer. Simmer times vary but I prefer about five hours for most stocks. Use your best judgment.

Oven Method

Stock will cook overnight in a 275 degree oven.  This is a great method to use and I use it quite often. I just tuck the bones, vegetables and water into a roasting pan (usually the one I roast the bones in so I can get all the great flavor from the bottom of the pan) and go to bed. In the morning I have a lovely stock.  

Once you have finished cooking your stock, strain it at least once to make sure that you are removing all the bits. I do this by lining a wire strainer with a piece of muslin and pouring the stock through it. Allow your stock to cool overnight. Once the stock has cooled remove the fat, reheat and strain it once again just to make sure that it is very clear.

To Make Bouillon

Once your stock has been made, skimmed and strained, you can begin the method of reducing the stock to its own concentrated bouillon.  This is especially useful if space is an issue.  One gallon of stock will reduce to about 1 cup (yes, 1 cup!) of liquid bouillon. 

Return your stock to a pot and bring to a fast boil, then lower to simmer and cook till the stock has reduced by half. This will prevent the stock from over-reducing and burning. You will know that your stock has reduced enough when it has thickened to a sauce that will coat the back of a spoon, has the consistency of a syrup, is lush, glossy and rich! It should be a bit runny with some weight to it.  

To set your bouillon, line an 8x8 or 8x13 pan, or an ice cube tray (depending on the amount of stock you have) with plastic wrap and pour the cooled sauce into it and refridgerate overnight.  To store, cut your bouillon into squares and place in small jars or Ziplock bags.  They will store two months in the fridge or up to a year in the freezer.

To use, approximate measure is 1 tsp per cup of water.